As Print Dwindles, can Amazon Re-Kindle?

Amazon-KindleLast week it was Apple’s iPhone, this week it is Amazon’s Kindle. Different mobile device, same question. 

As The Independent puts it hopefully in today’s business section: “Kindle to save papers?”

You see, Amazon’s e-reader is coming to the UK. Company founder Jeff Bezos posted the much-anticipated announcement on his site earlier this week.

And he made a compelling sales pitch for the £175 device:

Kindle uses the same 3G wireless technology as advanced mobile phones, with coverage in over 100 countries worldwide, so you never need to hunt for a WiFi hotspot. Unlike mobile phones, there are no monthly data charges and no yearly contracts.

So far, so portable. But will it work as a news-reader, not just a book-reader?

There are some who think the answer is absolutely yes.

US media analyst Diane Mermigas is one. Writing on the Bnet blog yesterday, she offered five reasons why newspapers must embrace e-readers.

Among her arguments, Mermigas says Kindle and co. provide the perfect vehicle for micro-payments; offer a ready-made social networking platform for interaction and media brand engagement; and allow newspaper owners to ultimately phase out costly print production.

The New York Times, Washington Post and – yes – The Independent have all signed up with Amazon and will be hoping much of this vision proves correct.

But the case is no yet proven.

For a start, e-readers are designed to replicate the book reading experience (ie) you start on page one and continue to end. Newspaper consumption is not a linear experience offline, and certainly not online.

Moreover, the interent satisfies the task-driven consumption of news because of its breadth of sources, free access and ease of search in a way an e-reader will struggle to replicate.

And despite the impressive numbers – 100 countries and an estimated 10 million e-readers (of all flavours) sold by the end of 2010 – they pale when compared to the internet itself.

To this non-user, at least, Kindle feels like internet-lite.

And while there may be an attractive case for newspapers to sign-up are they confident they can take enough readers with them?

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